Legal Threat Spam: Sometimes it Gets Personal

Published: 2014-08-05
Last Updated: 2014-08-05 12:57:12 UTC
by Johannes Ullrich (Version: 1)
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Yesterday, I spotted the following tweet mentioning me:

Needless to say, I got intrigued, and luckily the sender of the tweet was willing to share a sample.

The sample turned out to be simple legal threat malware e-mail written in German. The e-mail claimed that the recipient downloaded a copyrighted movie and it asked for legal fees. The invoice for the legal fees was supposed to be included in the attached ".cab" file.

From: "Johannes Ullrich"  
To: [removed].de
Subject: [vorfall:132413123]

Guten Tag,

Am 01.08.2014 wurde von Ihrem Rechner mit der IP-Addresse um 12:13:01 der Film "Need for Speed" geladen. Nach §19a UrhG ist dies eine kriminelle Handlung. Unsere Anwaltskanzlei  muss dies ans zuständige Amtsgericht melden, au?er Sie Zahlen ein au?ergerichtliches Strafgeld in Höhe von 436.43 Euro an uns.
Die Rechnung "" entnehmen Sie dem Anhang.

Johannes Ullrich

The attached .cab file runs a typical trojan downloader that could download various pieces of malware. A quick search shows a number of other reports of this email, with different "From:" names. It looks like it picks plausible German names, maybe from the contact list of infected systems. My names isn't that terrible unusual, so I don't think this is targeted at all. Sometimes it is just an odd coincidence, and they aren't really after you.

In the case above, the "From" e-mail address is not related to me. However, if an attacker sends spam using your e-mail address, it is very useful to have DMARC configured for your domain. With DMARC, you give the receiving mail server the option to report any e-mail that fails the DKIM or SPF tests to you. Only a few mail servers do so, but some of them are major public web mail systems. For example, here a quick report I just received for a domain I own:

(click on image for full size)

The attachment does include a report with details why the e-mail was found to be suspect (of course, you should still be careful with attachments. These reports can be faked too!) ;-).


Johannes B. Ullrich, Ph.D.

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